Matthew Le Tissier

Matt Le Tissier is a former English attacking midfielder who was born in Guernsey on 14th October 1968. Le Tissier was a natural sportsman from an early age, competing in football, cricket and tennis amongst other sports. He broke school records in athletics for 75m, 55m hurdles and 6x10 shuttle runs. Le Tissier honed his soccer skills playing with his older brothers Mark, Kevin and Carl who were decent players in their own right. He also inherited a certain amount of skill from his father Marcus, who had trials with Arsenal. Le Tissier described Kevin as a better finisher than him. Carl was more like Matt, a creative player used in a deeper role. Kevin Le Tissier had trials with Middlesbrough, but a potential move to the North East was never likely because the club was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time. He was later offered a professional contract with Oxford, but turned the offer down because he didn't want to leave Gurnsey. Carl Le Tissier was also reluctant to leave home, rejecting an offer from Southampton. The youngest of the Le Tissier clan Matt was still determined to make it in the game however.

Le Tissier's parents took steps to ensure their son wouldn't suffer the same homesickness problems as his siblings by sending him away on school trips and residential soccer camps. At the age of 13 Le Tissier attended a soccer camp at Calshot Activity Centre near Southampton. He was named player of the week and rewarded with photographs of Kevin Keegan and Lawrie McMenemy. By then Le Tissier already knew he was head and shoulders above most of the other kids he was coming up against. He played in his school's Under-11 team at the age of 8. By 1983 Le Tissier was a regular for Guernsey's U15 side. He took part in the Muratti Cup Final against Jersey that year, in front of his boyhood team Tottenham. Spurs were due to play Guernsey's senior outfit in a friendly later in the day, with the likes of Ray Clemence, Ossie Ardiles and Le Tissier's footballing hero Glenn Hoddle watching on. Unfortunately the pressure must have got to Le Tissier. He missed a penalty, forcing the game into extra time (Guernsey would go on to win anyway).

At the age of 14 Le Tissier was offered a trial by Oxford. He did well under youth team coach Ray Graydon. Oxford wanted Le Tissier to relocate to the area, but after a few unhappy days at a new school he returned to Guernsey. Fortunately Le Tissier knew there was still interest from Southampton. Saints allowed him to finish his education in Guernsey before making a decision about an apprenticeship. At this time Le Tissier was banging in goals for fun at U17 and U18 level. He even featured at adult level for Vale Rec Reserves. Le Tissier was called up to an England U17 training camp, where he performed alongside the likes of Julian Dicks and Andy Hinchcliffe.

Le Tissier faced the prospect of missing his first two youth matches for Saints, due to a suspension picked up in Guernsey for persistent dissent. The ban was overturned on appeal, with Le Tissier warned to improve his behaviour. Unfortunately he took little notice of the advice. Le Tissier continually found himself in trouble with referees throughout his professional career. As an apprentice he received a weekly pay packet of £26, with a £4 win bonus, £2 draw bonus and £16 monthly bus allowance. Le Tissier blew a lot of that money on fruit machines. He also played snooker with future professional Warren King.

Le Tissier was hugely influenced by his youth team coach Dave Merrington, who pushed his charges hard in training. He scored his first goal as an apprentice in a 4-2 win over Reading, lining up alongside the likes of Francis Benali, Allen Tankard and Steve Davis. Le Tissier also surprisingly missed a spot kick in that game. He picked up consecutive South East Counties titles, but fell just short in the FA Youth Cup.

Le Tissier signed his first professional contract for £100 per week, rising to £120 in the second year. He made his first team debut in a friendly at Exeter on 8th August 1986. Le Tissier also appeared in a testimonial for Nick Holmes against Benfica at The Dell. His competitive bow came as a substitute in a 4-3 defeat at Norwich on 30th August 1986. The gifted youngster was deployed on the right hand side in his early years. On 2nd September 1986 he made his first start at The Dell in a 2-0 win over Tottenham. Le Tissier gave Spurs full back Mitchell Thomas a torrid time, and set up Danny Wallace for a decent opportunity which was squandered. Four days later he received another start against Forest, but didn't fare quite so well up against an intimidating Stuart Pearce. Le Tissier was mostly confined to the bench for the next few months. He scored his first two goals in a 4-1 League Cup thumping of Manchester United on 4th November 1986. Red Devils boss Ron Atkinson was sacked as a result, making way for a certain Alex Ferguson. Le Tissier opened his account in the league four days later in a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. Starting opportunities were still proving to be scarce however. Manager Chris Nicholl believed he needed to develop physically. Le Tissier was nevertheless still very popular with the Saints supporters already. On 7th March 1987 he scored an incredible hatrick against Leicester in a 4-0 triumph. Le Tissier also notched up against Sheffield Wednesday and Watford before 1986/87 was up.

Le Tissier had a slightly disappointing 1987/88 season, netting just two cup goals against Bournemouth and Reading. He missed a number of matches through suspensions after receiving two red cards for the reserves. Le Tissier wasn't quite as spectacular as he was in the previous campaign, but still showed plenty of promise.

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